The title for this trip journal says it all and India is a truly fascinating country with a rich history and one of the few nations in the world that could trace the beginning of its civilization to a time before the birth of Christ. During my history lesson, I remember being vaguely interested in the rule of Chandra Gupta which is considered the golden age of India. Even today, India is one of the nations that is leading the world in terms of science and technology and I wanted to see how far the country has moved on.
Some of my understanding of the country comes from having friends of Indian heritage as well as comments from business associates and clients from India. The country is one of the foremost importers of spices and Indonesia, where I am from is one of the largest exporters of spices so there is a lot of trade in between. And that is just not where the similarities end. Both countries have Hindu and Muslim culture. Much of the landmarks around Delhi today was a remnant of the Moghul past which is an empire based on Muslim influences. While many of the heritage sites in Indonesia like Borobudur has its past in Hindu culture. While India today is a Hindu-majority nation, Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation. That switch in their national culture is quite fascinating in its own way. And both countries have the same 3 alphabets in their currency, one being Rupee and the other being Rupiah.
I highlight these similarities because both countries are significant nations within Asia that seems to be facing the same problem. Inefficient bureaucracies seems to stagnate the growth and development with much of the government only existing to enrich themselves. That seems to be the case when you experience the sorry state of infrastructure that plagues both nations. This means there was difficulties in getting from one place to the other.
Service attitudes by cab drivers and airport frontline staff are horrendous most of the time unless it is a foreign airline that probably does some training for their in-house staff. That is not to say the people I met in India are terrible. Some of them are actually quite honest and very reliable people to deal with such as the driver that drove me around Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, or the host at the Fairmont Gold lounge in Jaipur. That is another reason to be fascinated by since India provides much for the average traveller to discover and learn. It shows one a country where good resides with evil and provides cues on how to manage successful businesses too!
It is amazing how a country could have a disastrous-run airline like Air India, but also produce talents that built one of the nicest budget carrier ever. I would highly recommend everyone to give IndiGo a try and I believe the airline has some international destinations including Bangkok which was voted the number 1 destination amongst Indians.
Visiting the country eventually showed me that while some stereotypes of India might be true like lazy people which exists in inefficient run airlines like Air India and Jet Airways (but which nation has no lazy people in their country?), they do not always account for the whole nation. One of the incident that left a deep impression was when I refunded my Jet Airways ticket on a ‘mileage run’ back to Delhi from Bangkok. I was queueing up at the counter and there was only one person attending to refunds and late misconnections. Meanwhile inside the office 3 (yes, three) fat asses were just sitting around chatting amongst themselves. Behind me was another Japanese traveller who came in late and missed his connection. He could have been in time for the last flight had any one of those 3 fat asses even bothered to help but they didn’t even after he was pleading for help. It was just ridiculous to see such incidents when an airline like Jet Airways is facing trouble. Anyway I did get the refund for my ticket processed but it took a while and multiple interactions with Jet Airways staff.
The country itself is full of contrasts. Arriving into the modern airport of Delhi, you will still have to experience the crowded and stuffy trains around the country. And while the city of Mumbai has lots of luxury Mercedes Benzes, elsewhere, tuk-tuks are the main form of transport. From the stratospheric luxury that would probably be easily accessible to moguls of the Indian industry, there are lots of poverty in smaller towns. This just shows the disparity in education and access to economic benefits in the nation and something that seems to be a big issue for the country. For it to develop further there has to be greater penetration of education which will bring in wealth.
On the other hand, Indian artwork can be very beautiful and there is even a market for contemporary art by local artists as my stay in Grand Hyatt Mumbai shows. The nation is also instrumental in building some of the majestic palace forts ever with many spread around Rajasthan. And that alone makes the area one of my favourite destinations in India. And add the cuisine of India from the various fruits to the types of cuisines and rotis, the country is a melting pot in terms of food. The wealth of art and culture that can be savoured and learnt is just outstanding and that alone is good reason for anyone to visit India. My tip is for visitors to keep an open mind and India can bring fascinating delights, be it for a relaxing trip to the beaches of Goa, or to marvel in the forts of Rajasthan, or to just experience the urban life of Delhi and Mumbai.